posted before about how Twitter has become one of my most valuable sources of personal professional development as an educator, but I didn't make a big deal about Twitter chats there. In the past couple of weeks I've been involved in several structured (maybe semi-structured is a better phrase) Twitter chats related to education.
Twitter chats are organized around a #hashtag so you can track the conversation. It might seem awkward to horn in on someone else's conversation. Of course it's okay to just lurk on a chat--sort of like eavesdropping at a party--but the chats I've been part of welcome new voices, so don't be afraid to jump in there! To join the conversation, you just have to tweet and include the #hashtag for that chat. Usually someone will respond to your question or comment within seconds!
Because the groups can get quite large and the tweets fly fast, I've found it helps to use a Twitter client like TweetDeck or HootSuite to follow a chat; you can set up a pane to track a conversation this way. There is a moderator to provide a topic of discussion and give a few questions to get things rolling. From there, they conversation ranges wherever the participants take it, though in my experience, things tend to stay pretty topical. I think this is because the people part of the chat are choosing to be there: choosing to respond to prompting questions, choosing to raise their own questions, and choosing to respond to the questions and comments of others. As one of my twitterfriends, Sean Junkins (@sjunkins), has tweeted: "PD on Twitter is everything a teachers lounge or faculty meeting should be... Inspired educators with engaging ideas." Isn't that a powerful idea?
I've been following #rechat ("rethinking and re-imagining education") for a couple months now--we meet up (tweet up?) at 8:00 am Central Time on Saturday mornings. We chat about school reform topics, but it often ends up connecting with our own teaching practices: what can (should?) we change about the way we teach, the way we work within schools to affect our students' education? This chat tends to be more open and less structured.
I've been lurking on #iaedchat (Iowa Educators) for a couple weeks, and finally got into the chat in earnest this week. Regularly scheduled time is 8:00 pm Central Time on Sunday nights. From the chats I've lurked on, usually talking about something that is universal in the realm of education--not just applicable to teaching and learning in Iowa--but the majority of participants do seem to be from Iowa. This chat tends to be a bit more structured, as there are usually specific questions we address together.
If you are an educator on Twitter, I'd highly recommend you follow one of these chats! Lurk on a chat to get an idea of how they work. If you're feeling comfortable doing so, drop in on the conversation (just tweet with the #hashtag.) You never know what you might learn or how you might impact the learning of your fellow educators!